The Myth that Veiling Protects Women from Assault

flies attracted to unveiled women
Photo Credit: adventures in cairo

Muslim women who wear headscarves often repeat the nonsense spread by Muslim men that wearing the veil helps prevent lust in men and reduces unwanted sexual advances or even rape.

For example, the photo here is from a message in ads circulating anonymously in e-mails in Egypt instructing women: "You won't be able to stop them (i.e. men), but you can protect yourself. He who created you knows what's best for you!"

This is just wishful thinking. Many Muslims, when confronted with the alarming statistic from Egypt that "98 percent of foreign women and 83 percent of Egyptian women have been sexually harassed [see Muslim Sexual Harassment in Egypt], blame it on the women, for dressing like a sharmuta (whore in Arabic).

The truth is, immodest dress or sexual attractiveness has little to do with sexual harassment - that is just a myth.

Roger Williams University, Rape Myths And Facts

Myth: Women provoke sexual assault by their appearance. Sexual attractiveness is a primary reason why a rapist selects a victim.

Fact: Rapists do not select their victims by their appearance. They select victims who are vulnerable and accessible. Victims of sexual assault range in age groups from infants to the elderly. Sexual attractiveness is not an issue.

This jibes with the reality: an estimated 80 percent of Egyptian women now wear hijab. Interestingly 75% of all the women in Egypt who reported being sexually harassed were veiled at the time (1).

There has been a rise in rapes throughout the Muslim world just as Muslim communities have seen a rise in Islamic extremism. More and more Muslim women in the past few decades have been forced to don hijabs, niqabs and Burqas as more of their men returned from working in the oil rich gulf states where they were infected with the stricter interpretations of the Qur'an.

Rape is an act of physical violence and domination and because the Qur'an instructs men to treat women as less than equals, because the Qur'an instructs men to beat their wives, because women get half the inheritance than men, because women have half the credibility in court than men, because the Qur'an is misogynistic, and because Muslim men are becoming more shariah-compliant, for all these reasons Islam fosters rape and sexual harassment.

So even though they are forced to dress more modestly, to become less sexually attractive, rapes and sexual harassment have increased in Muslim countries. The same mechanism of domination and hatred of women are responsible for both the oppressive wearing of the veil and for rape and sexual harassment of Muslim women.

The proof of this is not from my words, but those from the women who live in Egypt:

ReligioNewsBlog, In Egypt, Some Women Say That Veils Increase Harassment

Surprisingly, some Egyptian women say that their veils don’t protect against harassment, as the lollipop ads argue, but fuel it (2). A survey released this summer supports the view.


In accord with her interpretation of Islamic law, which says women should dress modestly, [Hind] Sayed wore a flowing black robe and black veil. Together, they covered all but her hands and her pale face with its drawn-on, expressive eyebrows. Despite her attire, Sayed said, she daily endures suggestive comments from male customers and fellow vendors.

“I think a woman who wears hijab can be more provocative to them,” Sayed said. “The more covered up you are, the more interesting you are to them.”

It is undeniable that veiling, modest dress, and moral behavior do not prevent unwanted advances from Muslim men. That is just a myth that Muslim men spread to exert domination over women. The only way Muslim women can get their men to treat them better is to get them to renounce Islam.

I started this series of articles called Muslim Sexual Harassment to investigate country by country a claim made by a reader that women choose to wear the hijab in Muslim countries and that Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, and Iran are the only countries that enforce a dress code. For the premier article please read Muslim Sexual Harassment in the Jordan.

This article available in Danish here.



Gulf News, Going hi-tech on sexual harassment

Harassment of women is believed to be on the rise in Egypt.


Contrary to popular opinion, incidents do not appear to be linked to the woman's style of dress, with three-quarters of victims having been veiled at the time. But efforts to curb the problem have met with resistance.


Washington Post, In Egypt, Some Women Say That Veils Increase Harassment

flies attracted to unveiled women
Photo Credit: adventures in cairo

CAIRO -- In a Muslim country where the numbers of women wearing the veil are rising, and so -- by most accounts -- are incidents of groping and catcalls in the streets, the message in ads circulating anonymously in e-mails here in Egypt is clear:

"A veil to protect, or eyes will molest," one warns.

The words sit over two illustrations, one comparing a veiled woman, her hair and neck covered in the manner known to Muslims as hijab, to a wrapped candy, untouched and pure.

The other picture shows an unveiled woman, hair flying wildly and hip jutting, next to a candy that has had its wrapper stripped off -- and is now covered in flies.

### End of my article ###

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